Designer Dill uses Bermuda inspiration
Channing Dill always dreamt of becoming a fashion designer, and even started her own line Native By Channing Elizabeth.
Still, for a long time, she didn’t put her work out there. It was too hard to imagine people buying any of it.
“I would make things and be excited about it, and think, ‘this is my line’,” she said. “But the idea of having other people wearing my clothes seemed far fetched.”
Then a year ago, her friend, Omejae Goater, insisted she enter her work in his fashion expo Influence the Influencers.
“I was a bit nervous,” the 31 year old said. “I was worried about the criticism I might get from putting myself out there.”
Mr Goater talked her into it, and the next thing she knew she’d made her first sale.
“It was one of my bow ties,” she said. “When someone at the show said they would buy it, I said, ‘me, are you sure?’. My boyfriend got a picture of me at that moment.”
The event gave her reassurance that she was on to something, and inspired her to enter the BEDC’s Vend 2 Win competition in the BAA gym in May.
“I was uncomfortable with the Influence the Influencers event, but it went really well for me,” Ms Dill said. “So, I thought I’d try Vend 2 Win.
“Vending is another situation where you have to step out and greet people. You have to explain what your product is.
“So, I decided to do it. The response to my product was really positive and people were really excited about it.”
Ms Dill was named one of the six winners of the competition, their prize, a trip to Brooklyn, New York to sell their products at The Reserve Market.
“For exposure, that went really well,” she said. “I met a gentleman whose mom was the buyer at one of the fashion houses.
“He said he would give her my contacts. He was texting her back and forth. I got her e-mail also. With selling, my price point was a little high. I have to pay closer attention to which markets I will participate in. The age group was younger and more urban.
“Sellingwise I did okay. But exposure is always most important. People get to talking.”
Ms Dill describes her style as a classic one. “I didn’t want to make something people would have to throw out in a year because it wasn’t in style any more,” she said. “And I like to buy things that will last.”
Her work is most noticeable for its Bermuda-inspired prints. Many of her items have an image of magnified pink beach sand. The print started out as a photo on her iPhone.
“I see images all day, leaf prints, bird claw prints in the sand,” she said. “I often think, that would be cute on the bottom of a skirt.”
Her prints reflect her love for nature. Customers get a card, explaining the origins of the print, and its significance in Bermudian culture. But she’s not tied to Bermudian motifs. “If I travel and see other things that interest me, I will take from that,” she said. “I am really inquisitive and I like to see how things become the way they are.”
For Ms Dill, starting her own business hasn’t been easy. She quickly found printing her own fabrics in the United States and importing them to Bermuda to be pricey.
She’s had to borrow money and dip into her savings to get the business off the ground. But she is making sales, so a profit doesn’t seem far off.
She also finds that social media doesn’t come easily to her.
“It has been a big effort,” she said. But she finds running Native to be a lot of fun.
“Everything is a new experience,” she said. “I am constantly learning. “Although I am not good at social media, it is fun to create, and I love the feedback I get. Actually, sitting down and creating something is fun. Everything is fun, besides figuring out finances.”
Ms Dill has also had to balance the business with her full-time job, working in alternations at Rene Hill Originals on Reid Street.
“I’ve learnt a lot from Rene,” she said.
She started sewing in middle school. “My shape was a bit funny,” she said. “I had a small waist but bigger hips, so I had to take things in. I learnt how to sew from watching YouTube. Then, I would just do little things.”
Then, for Christmas three years ago, her parents, Shirley and Barrett Dill, surprised her with a Singer sewing machine.
“It was the only thing I wanted, but I hadn’t even mentioned it,” she said. “I think my parents had seen me hand sewing, and thought, oh my gosh, she needs a sewing machine.
“I was really excited to start using it. It was the next step to doing things correctly.”
At home, she tries to wear pieces from Native at least once a week. “Sometimes, people come up to me and ask where I got that piece, but not every week,” she said. “If I see anyone even glancing at what I’m wearing, I have to be so shameless.
“I’ll say to them: ‘Hi, this is my own design if you are interested’. Sometimes they say, ‘okay, I was just looking past you, but I will take a card anyway’.”
So far, her swimwear line, particularly her monokinis, have proven popular and she’s considering expanding in that area.
“I would not be ignoring my clothing line,” she said. “I love to design clothes, but I also have even bigger goals.”
She has a passion for animals and nature and may start an animal sanctuary in the future.
“I could have children come to it,” she said. “But it would not be a zoo, but a sanctuary.
“I could even start to take my prints from the sanctuary and have courses offered under Native where you couple culture and sewing practice.”
•For more information see: NativebyChanningElizabeth.com and on Instagram and Facebook under Nativebychanningelizabeth